A few years ago during a conversation with my sisters, one of them noted that women are losing their femininity. In her opinion, we’re becoming more like men and losing both our confidence and femininity.

My sister’s comment reminded me of a discussion I had with a former client, whom I’ll nickname Grace.

Grace works in a competitive industry that’s dominated by older men. So moving up the career ladder has not been an easy journey for her. She’s a highly intelligent girly girl who had to make changes in order to fit in with the crowd.

For one, Grace is tall and she loves heels. And so she started wearing flat shoes to avoid towering over men (especially her superiors at work). It also doesn’t help that she looks more like a model than a career woman in such a field. So she downplayed her looks by wearing drab ‘gender-friendly’ clothing.

As she rose up the ladder, things got really bad for her at work and in her industry. People tended to downplay her role when she attended meetings. Many people also got shocked when she gave an informed opinion.

One day in a coaching session, Grace complained that people think of her as a ‘blonde’, meaning that they don’t expect to hear anything intelligent from her. So she downplays her femininity so that her peers take her seriously.

In the process of trying to fit in, she became unhappy because there was a part of her that felt lost and unappreciated. Her confidence and fulfilment plummeted and she was thinking of quitting her job to either change careers or go into business.

Grace is not alone. This is a common scenario today for women all over the world. Sadly, one of the results of this kind of experience is that many women become very competitive, and not in a nice way. They also adopt masculine behaviours, and end up losing their sense of self in the process.

Areas Where Women Easily Lose Their Confidence and Femininity

1. In the workplace

The workplace is a huge challenge for many women who want to grow professionally. Old habits die hard and some professions are run like boys’ clubs. This is because in the old days organizational leadership was a male-dominated domain.

For a long time, women were discouraged from being more than support and administrative staff. In such industries or workplaces, women (like Grace) have to hide or downplay their femininity in order to gain acceptance.

The good news for women is that with the increase in women in leadership positions in all areas of society, we are now able to be more feminine even as we grow professionally.

It’s no longer mandatory for women to wear dark skirt suits to work. Dresses and trouser suits are now the norm. Some industries have relaxed and allow for daily smart casual wear or jeans and t-shirts on Fridays.

It’s also much easier now to navigate your way up the success ladder based on merit and not because you fought for the position or know someone.

2. In politics and civil society

When a woman stands up as a leader or takes a stand on a social issue, she has to fight both men and women in order to be heard.

A good example is the late Prof. Wangari Maathai who was insulted by politicians and other women on the basis of her gender and for being divorced. Rarely do we hear men in leadership being criticized on basis of their marital status!

As previously noted, many women in leadership take on masculine characteristics as they fight for recognition. On the other hand, masculine-oriented women who seek public positions tend to lose votes from women when they come across as too aggressive.

A good case point is Martha Karua who couldn’t get enough women to vote for her as President although she had a good agenda for Kenya at that time.

We’ve also seen what happened in America when the choice for a new president narrowed down to Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton…and Trump had more women supporters than Hillary.

3. In our homes

Women are advancing fast in their careers and earning more than before. It’s no longer strange to find a home where the woman is the only or main breadwinner.

This has led to conflict in some homes when the man tries to assert his authority over the woman on the basis of money. There’s also resentment if the woman’s financial contribution is downplayed or misused.

4. As single parents

I wouldn’t have thought of this as an area where women have to assert themselves until I became a single parent myself. That’s when I discovered that there are spoken and unspoken norms for single mums in our society.

Single mums also have to act as both father and mother. Since there’s no one to share family roles with, many single mums become more aggressive as they fight both personal and societal expectations.

5. Among other women

This is an interesting scenario because you’d expect women to band together as one when they’re in a group. Sadly, most women cut each other up when they’re together and those who win the fights end up being the opinion leaders in their groups.

Some women who have fought for recognition in the workplace adopt the same behaviour when dealing with other women. It’s common to find aggression being a deciding factor on the agendas that sail through in women’s meetings, friendships, groups, and chamas.

5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Confidence and Femininity 

1. Accept that you cannot satisfy everyone

Start by recognizing that there will always be people who will put you down because of one thing or another, including your gender.

You cannot change what people choose to think, but you can control whether you allow their opinions to sink into your psyche or not.

In other words, don’t let other people’s opinions be the basis of what you do or don’t do. When such people realize that they have no effect on you, they will leave you and find someone else to pester.

Personal development expert Dr. Wayne Dyer gave sound advice when he said, “What you think of me is none of my business!”

2. Accept yourself

Self-acceptance is critical if you want people to take you seriously. Accept and appreciate yourself as a woman and be OK with it – always.

Men are by nature more stoic while women are emotional. I’ve met successful women who are afraid to show emotion simply because they think that they will lose face with their peers.

While you don’t have to go overboard and flaunt your femininity, you also don’t have to hide behind many masks until there is nothing left of you. You didn’t apply to be born a certain gender. God in His wisdom created you a woman. If someone has beef with that, let them take it up with God.

3. Change your wardrobe

It’s time for a wardrobe change to bring out your inner girl. Wean yourself off drab and dark clothing and make your outlook more colourful.

For example, you can add a bit of colour to your dressing through the use of simple accessories like scarves and simple jewellery. You can then upgrade to wearing more colourful blouses and dresses. And then work your way into professional but feminine office wear.

By the way, the main person you have to convince that this will work is yourself. Confidence is an inner game. The more confident you become, the easier it is for other people to accept and appreciate you as you are.

4. Be professional at all times

One of the downsides of allowing your feminine self to shine is that you will get unwarranted attention from both men and women.

There will be men who will become more attracted to you and pull some weird moves. Avoid situations where you create unnecessary expectations from men whom you have to deal with socially or professionally.

So don’t go overboard with makeup or and start wearing clingy or revealing clothing. Also, don’t use your femininity to take advantage of men who admire you.

There will also be women who will attack you as you start looking better. It’s especially challenging when the attacks come from women who are your seniors at work or in your professional circles. Get tips on how to handle such people from this article on how to handle difficult people and reduce stress.

Expand your professionalism online and clean up your online image. Social media is the first place people check when they want to get to know you better. You lose face and credibility if your profiles have embarrassing posts or images.

Your reputation is important. Control as much of it as you can by creating and maintaining strong personal and professional boundaries.

5. Learn how to negotiate like a pro

One of the areas where women lose out the most is when negotiating for what they want or need. Negotiation requires a high level of confidence in yourself and your abilities.

I’ve found it interesting that high-achieving women can focus on achieving their goals and at the same time have very low confidence in themselves at the workplace or in business.

You need to learn how to fight and win:

  • in your home.
  • in romantic relationships.
  • with friends and extended family.
  • at work.
  • in your business and with your employees.

For example, research has proven that many women earn less than their male counterparts all over the world. Find out what you’re worth in your industry and then negotiate to rise to that level if you’re not there yet.

Another critical area is your romantic relationship – whether it’s with a spouse or significant other. Don’t settle for less and don’t allow yourself to be demeaned or taken advantage of in your relationship. Also, don’t get tempted to avoid success simply because your partner is not comfortable when you outshine him.

If your partner doesn’t treat you well, you need to evaluate your relationship. You can work through tough situations by getting professional help from a marriage counsellor, therapist or relationship coach.

Negotiating in personal relationships is a learning curve…and it’s not an easy one. However, the wins of having your partner treat you with respect are more than worth it.

Confidence and Personality Building Resources

People constantly ask me to recommend personal development books and resources. Here’s a list of some that have been of immense value to me and my clients. The books are available online and in local bookshops.

  1. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.
  2. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks.
  3. Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale .
  4. The Confidence Factor for Women in Business by Carol Sankar.
  5. Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment & Direction by Marcia Reynolds. (This is an amazing resource for women in leadership. It’s more of a coaching program contained in a book).
  6. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. (Also check out the other books in the Boundaries collection on marriage, dating, leadership, raising kids, and parenting teens).

Your Next Step

Many successful women are used to fighting for recognition. If this is your normal way of life, then the concept of being both feminine and successful might sound strange.

The problem with fighting for recognition is that you will have to keep fighting all the time. This has the potential to turn you into a fighter in all areas of your life.

If you’d like to have faster and more sustainable change, then I invite you to take the step that my client Grace took and sign up for Break Free, Live Your Life coaching program.

I specifically created this program to help successful women who find themselves struggling with overwhelm and lack of confidence as they pursue their BIG goals.

Click here to find out more about this program.

(Images courtesy of Unsplash)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases when people buy from my affiliate links, such as the ones in the recommended resources above. However, I only recommend resources that have worked for me and my clients.


Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at Biashara 360. She's an avid blogger and also oversees our content creation. This ensures that we give our readers quality and well researched information and tips.

    2 replies to "Increase Your Overall Confidence by Reclaiming Your Femininity"

    • Mary

      Great article Caroline! A colleague and I just discussed this topic today morning! We were discussing this in the context of young PhD women scientists in a science work environment, and your points are really point-on! She recommended I check out the book ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, which would make a great additional read to your already awesome booklist.

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Having ‘escaped’ from a scientist environment, I can totally understand what you’re talking about, Mary! Glad that the article was on point for you. Thanks for your comment and the book recommendation. I’ve seen it in a few other places so I guess it’s time for me to read it too.

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